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Guest Opinions

WCIA Annual Meeting Educates, Provides Funding

Written by Mike Moore

by Mike Moore, Wy. Seed Certification Service Manager and Wy. Crop Improvement Association secretary/treasurer

The Wyoming Crop Improvement Association (WCIA), an organization of people and businesses interested in the production of quality seed, meets the first week of February each year to discuss topics of interest, to hear presentations on seed-related topics and show their appreciation to seed industry leaders.

The WCIA Excellence in Service Award is given to people who exhibit a high standard of excellence in the areas of seed production, the seed industry, or research and extension and/or have made a significant contribution to the Wyoming certified seed industry (i.e. educational, research, marketing and promotion).

Last February two deserving individuals were recognized: Gil Waibel, the director of the Wyoming State Seed Laboratory, and Jack Cecil, retired Sustainable Agricultural Research and Extension Center Assistant (SAREC) research scientist, past Wyoming Seed Certification Service manager and long-time field inspector. Both gentlemen were awarded the coveted green jacket in recognition of their dedication to the Wyoming seed industry. Gil has been at the helm of the seed lab since it opened in Powell in 2003, and has guided it through incredible growth during that time. Jack Cecil has provided field inspections in southeast Wyoming for many years, while also working at the SAREC and Torrington research centers, and he continues to do so even after officially retiring last year.

Crop-related issues discussed at the meeting included inspection timing as it relates to genetic purity and weed issues. The basis for seed certification is genetic, or varietal, purity, so inspections are performed when differences between varieties can best be observed. That timing varies by crop, but in the case of alfalfa that is during flowering. While varietal purity is the foundation of certified seed, other issues such as diseases and weeds are also part of the field inspection process, and some weed and disease issues are better seen earlier or later in the growing season. In the end, inspectors work with both producers and their historical knowledge of weed and disease issues in the area to determine the best time for inspections.

The group also discussed challenges associated with nightshade control in dry beans, with the final outcome being to provide seed money for a research project on the best methods of incorporating pre-plant chemicals for nightshade control. The study, which will be conducted by UW Weed Scientist Andrew Kniss at the Powell and Lingle research and extension centers, will serve not only the seed industry but also the commercial bean industry, as nightshade is an issue in beans destined for both edible and seed markets.

The WCIA meetings also provide an opportunity for education. A presentation by Joe Scianna, manager of the Bridger Plant Materials Center, detailed their efforts to research and release native species. Those releases are often production opportunities for Wyoming seed producers, and are used in the western U.S. for re-vegetation and reclamation needs. Attendees also gain production guidance through the discussion of commodity-based topics, such as the nightshade issue, as well as through personal interaction with other attendees and UW researchers and administrators.

Finally, the WCIA provides financial support to several causes related to the Wyoming seed industry and Wyoming agriculture. The organization distributed over $2,000 in scholarships to the children of certified seed producers in 2010 and continued a long-standing donation to the Wyoming FFA Foundation. In addition to the nightshade research project, they also provided support for the third year of a UW tall fescue forage and seed production trial. With assistance from numerous contributors, the WCIA also funds a lobbyist to the Wyoming Legislature in support of irrigated agriculture in the state. Finally, in partnership with the Wyoming Seed Certification Service, the WCIA educates people on the value and importance of certified seed through advertisements on the Northern Broadcasting Network.

For more information on the WCIA or certified seed, visit wyseedcert.com or call the Wyoming Seed Certification Service at 307-754-9815.